My Street

The annual gift feels momentous this year. The unkempt patch of weeds has recovered from the Landlord’s violent applications of weedkiller and everything looks vibrant, undaunted and hopeful. The eruption of dead nettles, green alkanet and dandelions is appreciated by the bees and me.

dandelion-1

Two years ago I perched on a crumbly old brick ledge amidst these weeds with my squared notebook and my recorder. I was trying to translate green alkanet flowers into knitting charts and I was recording the sounds of the insect life living in the unruly patch along with the rumble of traffic along the adjacent main road.

green alkanet-1

I was looking towards Shetland Wool Week 2013 and to giving the very first ever Quotidian Colourwork class. I was thinking about whether knitting and listening to places can increase a sense of belonging and celebration. I remember it very clearly; the light, the slight fear of getting sunburnt, the little sounds of my pencils and paper while I sketched and the clattering of lorries going up and down the hill.

weeds_patch-1

It was a day not unlike this day – in fact it was April 25th – and I felt (as today) really grateful for the flowers. And for the sunlight which seems to carry in itself the ghosts of all the spring times past.

bricks-1

There’s a way that the evening light hits the old Reading brickwork that makes my heart sing.
It’s just so rich and red. It looks like all the iron in the clay is lit from within.

view of street-1

When I sat by the weeds and sketched two years ago I took loads of photos. And today I seem to have taken the same photos. It doesn’t seem to matter that I already photographed the nettles by the concrete breeze blocks, they must be documented again!

Today I realised, it’s not about having the photograph. It’s about taking the photograph.

09-dead-nettle

It’s about how when I stop to record something I am enjoying what it feels like to notice something. This is how I have ended up with so many recordings of blackbirds and cooking, and so many photos, apparently, of nettles.

nettle-1

But there is something extra in noticing this little corner of the world and its annual gift of flowers today. In the time between sitting there are sketching and recording it two years ago, I have knitted it and this process has been described and published in a book.

knitted street-1-3

The research for my chapter about finding inspiration in places was happily conducted in Reading Library and the Berkshire Records Office looking at old deeds and photos…

whitley grove-4

…and marveling at lapsed time.

My_Street

my street-1

All of the inspiration sources in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook are special to me but what I really love about this one is that it is a reminder that you really don’t have to travel far at all to find incredible beauty.

work in progress-1

I remember the pleasure of getting my photos back and working on the swatch based on My Street. It was so joyous to look through all those photos of weeds, to match them to shades of Jamieson & Smith yarn, to tinker with patterns and to find yet another way to record those nettles.

But on a personal level, the greatest creative pleasure of all came today.

nettle-1-2

When my amazingly talented brother Fergus Ford came to take the photos for the book the patch at the end of my street was – alas – mostly dead. Any spare dandelion or green alkanet that was there was used in our photo shoot for the book but it wasn’t until today that I have been able to fully unite the swatch I made of My Street with its original inspiration source: the glorious spring time eruption of flowers.

my street-1-2

Processes of recording, documenting, listening, knitting and playing bind me to this place; they reinforce my relationship to the details in my environment. There are touchstones everywhere which mark connections. Here is the green alkanet whose blue is so amazing, here are the bricks I photographed, here is a tree where a robin sang and I listened.

I am invested in every crack in the pavement, every patch of tarmac, every weed and bird that is here; noticing these things is what makes this street My Street.

And I love them all.

nettle-1-3

11 Responses to My Street

  1. mark stanley says:

    That’s a beautiful post felix xxx I love that our street made its way into your heart and your book xxx

  2. Elaine says:

    Wow!! Thanks so much, Felix, for such a wonderful post. I need to go out and just sit somewhere and look more closely at my environment. My street is just small grassy gardens but a park close by has interesting stuff like the lot on your street.

    Your book is my Eye Candy!!

  3. Susan says:

    That is totally amazing……..one just has to LOOK!!! seriously, pay attention and you do! Thank you.

  4. Jo Ford says:

    I was so moved reading this. And I felt myself transported back three decades to the days when we walked to school, noticing the world around us as we walked. My favourite times were when we were not in a hurry and could notice everything, from the squashed frog in the road to the nodding daffodils.

    • I loved walking to and from school and the ginnel with its potholes and the park with its swings and grass. I loved the 1930s terraces with Tudorbethan details and 1970s pebbledash. And I rember our fat privet hedge and the glorious oak tree in our garden.

  5. Terry says:

    Such a lovely sharing. Thank you once again. My eyes got a little damp when the 3rd-to-the last picture scrolled into view. You’re such an artist, with wool and words.

  6. Allison says:

    I have been following your Quotidian colorwork series, and I have to say this one may be my favorite! Some dandelions brightened up my patchy lawn this spring, too, and I just love the fresh green against the yellow in your swatch!
    Thank you for sharing your pictures and story of spring.

  7. Hi Felix,
    Not only do you have a wonderful way with knitting, your words are most heartfelt too….I loved reading about the inspiration and thoughts behind your street swatch. I feel the same way when I’ve been for a walk over the marshes behind our house, coming home with a small posy of picked blooms to match up colours in patchwork and embroidery. Your love and enthusiasm for simple places of beauty is a constant to remind us all what a beautiful world we live in.

  8. Lara says:

    Gorgeous post. I love the colours, the love letter to your street and your beautiful knitting. Most of all I love the joy and glee that is evident that you feel from waiting for the flowers to bloom, the anxious wait to see if they survived the landlords weed killer and the power of stopping and noticing. My friendship with you means I’m much more conscious about everyday sounds and take time to appreciate everyday pleasures more. I am so glad that you had chance in the sun to stop and admire the beauteous annual gift. I’m glad it was splendid this year. “Let us sit in the sun and count on the beautiful things we can see”… Xxx

  9. colleen says:

    Lovely, Felix. And you are very lucky to be able to revisit. I had a favourite patch of nettles near Globe Road, not far from PYF, but the last time I passed it had been claimed and planted up. I shall return and see what happens.

  10. Joanne says:

    I have just discovered your blog (finally! Wow!) and rejoice in how you find the beauty in the urban everyday. I take a walk every day with my dogs, at roughly 7 in the morning. It is almost always one of a couple walks, and I notice everything. I love how my neighborhood looks in all weathers, its hundred year old bright painted houses, the arching elm skeletons in deep snowy winter, the ridiculously large prairie icy puddles in spring (ok, that is gross and cold, mostly) and the joy of our lush, short and hysterically green Canadian summer. I examine it in much the same way you describe, except without camera, without needles and yarn. Mostly, with two dogs and a poop bag, but the images sing for me later, in writing and in design. Thanks for sharing that experience with me.

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